Berg Says He Wasn’t Prepared in 2012 for Heitkamp’s Personal Attacks

Rick Berg celebrates as he and his family are followed by supporters during a rally after his speech to delegates of the North Dakota state GOP convention in 2012. Eric Hylden / Forum Communications Co.

Former Congressman Rick Berg has been in the news this election cycle as he’s pondering running for the U.S. Senate again.

He ran in 2012, of course, after one term in the U.S. House and decades in the North Dakota House before that, but lost by just a few thousand votes to Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

I had Berg on my radio show yesterday to talk about that loss, and the potential for a new campaign:

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Of the 2012 campaign Berg told me he “wasn’t prepared for the personal attacks at the level they were.”

The 2012 Senate race was certainly a vicious one.

Heitkamp’s campaign accused Berg of hating women. According to them Berg is an extremist who “attacks women,” according to web ads run by the DCCC and never once condemned by Heitkamp. Rick Berg would let women die from breast cancer, claimed another ad ran on Heitkamp’s behalf. And, with the campaign’s finish line in sight, Heitkamp’s campaign unleashed one of the sleaziest political ads I’ve ever heard, again accusing Berg of not caring about issues like domestic violence and cancer.

At one point, Heitkamp’s efforts to paint Berg – who made his fortune in real estate – as an unsympathetic slum lord went so far into the land of baseless hyperbole that she was forced to take some of her ads down.

“I don’t look back at that as anything but a learning experience,” Berg said.

As for 2018, Berg said he’s weighing “who is going to be in the race” and deciding whether he can win if he runs. He’s also wondering if he can make a change in Washington if elected.

“I would have traded a lot to be in the Senate this summer to repeal Obamacare,” he told me. He said he would have supported the Graham-Cassidy bill to replace Obamacare with policy tasking the state governments with healthcare, saying he supports government “closest to the people.”

Berg said President Trump has “stirred the pot” and is “crazy like a fox.”

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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